Brian Creath

Posts Tagged ‘Strategy’

The Marketing Shift: Rise of the Direction Company

In Advertising, Brand, Brand Strategy, Marketing, marketing strategy, Positioning on March 21, 2013 at 12:48 pm

StrategicDirection

Every day, more and more companies heed the prevailing notion that to successfully manage their own brands and marketing conversations with customers, they must build internal staff to do so. And to a great extent, they are right. Gone are the days when advertising agencies owned the media planning and media buying initiative. And as companies work hard to understand and react to the specific needs of customers and consumers, it makes sense that they build internal resources to manage these day-to-day conversations.

Are The Scales Tipping Too Far?

A decrease in traditional advertising, an increase in social media usage, new access to specific customer information and a continued stagnant economy, have all contributed to create a seminal marketing shift. Many companies, in a rush to meet customer desires and demands in an ‘always-on’ environment, have created marketing platforms of ‘give them what they want, regardless of what and who, we are.’ Of course, agencies have always been guilty of this and have contributed to the problem. Unfortuanately, the marketing efforts of many companies (and agencies, on the whole) are simply becoming crowdsourcing liasons.

The Balance of Marketing Power.

While technology and especially social media have given customers and consumers a new distribution tool to voice opinion, smart marketing and brands have always been about listening and adjusting. But these efforts also carried a directional point of view that while firm, was flexible to the marketplace.

Where Is The Point of View?

If every company simply crowdsources its brands and marketing efforts, one thing is certain: Everything will begin to look, feel and sound the same. Because people all want pretty much the same things. Good prices. Good products and services. Fair treatment. Honest businesses. But with no overarching point of view, there can be little differentiation. And in marketing, the brand and effort with a relevant difference tends to succeed. Here’s how this all works better: A company, brand and or marketing effort, begins with a point of view. A direction born of mission, vision, culture, positioning and a number of other elements. It’s then packaged into a strategy and direction that leaves some room for input by customers. (If that point of view is missing or weak, it needs to be developed.)

Enter The Direction Company.

What is needed today is not the agency of the past, nor a refurbished version. Not a company that simply builds and contracts services to mirror the perceived tactical needs of clients, but one that focuses on the front-end strategy needs of companies, and can work inside and alongside internal marketing staffs to create real value. What is needed is objective, third-party expertise in the strategy and early creative direction efforts of brand, marketing and communications development. What is needed, is something we call ‘The Direction Company.’

Cohesion: A Brand & Marketing Direction Company

You guessed it: Cohesion is a direction company. Because today, that’s what we have found is needed most in the marketing departments and efforts we touch. It’s also  the way we modeled our business from the start and the exclusive work we’ve been doing since 1999. To learn how we can add value to your efforts, contact Brian Creath, Managing Principal, at 314-276-5383, or at: bcreath@cohesioncompany.com.

Why Every Company Needs Outside Marketing Perspective.

In Brand, Brand Strategy, Business strategy, Market research, Marketing, Strategy on February 27, 2013 at 7:40 pm

Something funny happened on the way to the future: As organizations have cut back on budgets and taken many marketing services ‘inside,’ many have also become extremely insulated…often, seeing things solely through the lens of an office window.

It’s one thing to take creative services in-house. It’s quite another to look internally for truly innovative brand and marketing strategy. Because more often than not, the time, the broad view and the development expertise, just don’t exist on the inside. This is not to knock some very good internal marketing people. Simply to point out that everyone has a different set of skills and training. (As as many extremely talented marketing managers will tell you.)

Yes, many of the companies we talk with are struggling with marketing perspective. Mostly, how to find it and how to use it.

Certainly, what a company ‘needs‘ is not the same as what it ‘can‘ or ‘should‘ do. That’s where outside perspective has its primary value. And no where is this more true than in marketing. And especially, in the development of brand and marketing strategy.

Without outside marketing perspective, strategy simply becomes a wish list and marketing execution a never-ending series of ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ by committee: an environment in which, success has a difficult time surviving.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am in the business of providing marketing perspective. Developed and sold through the context of strategy and messaging, but perspective, nonetheless. It’s through marketing perspective that value and relevance can be created. That new insights and the experience of having done something before, can co-exist. That internal vision and external realities, can successfully come together.

Is this a sales message? Of course we’d like to provide our perspective to help your organization develop successful marketing strategy. But more than a sales message for us, it’s a sales message for the importance of buying outside perspective. Outside (sometimes referred to as ‘third-party) perspective is a critical tool in building strategy. But obviously, outside perspective cannot be found or brought ‘in-house.’ (Then it wouldn’t be outside, anymore…would it?)

(If you’re not buying marketing perspective from our firm, please do buy it from somebody.)

While I’m working on my next post, I hope you’ll read about how Cohesion helps organizations, here.

Beyond Survival: Brand As Competitive Edge In Today’s Business Environment

In Brand, Brand Relevance, Brand Strategy, Business strategy, Corporate Marketing, Internal communications, Marketing, marketing strategy, Positioning on February 26, 2013 at 11:45 am

Picture 16

Investing in a strong brand is one of the single most important efforts that an enterprise can undertake to ensure continued relevance and growth in a rapidly changing market. Unfortunately, many companies have become so concentrated on developing efforts that promote ‘the next sale,’ that they have neglected investing in the foundation of their brand direction.

Without a brand umbrella to help rationalize margins, instill customer loyalty, bolster employee morale and drive awareness, every sale becomes a little more difficult and disproportionately more expensive.

To download the entire whitepaper, simply click here.

Is That A Marketing Strategy and Plan, Or a List of Marketing Projects?

In Advertising, Brand, Brand Strategy, Marketing, marketing strategy, Small Business, Strategy on February 22, 2013 at 12:52 pm

confused-face

It’s a disturbing trend: Economic uncertainty has left many companies (small and large) with the belief that they can no longer forecast their marketing efforts and therefore, don’t need a marketing plan (of any sort). Perhaps even worse, many of these companies rationalize their behavior with the idea that marketing planning is somehow outdated or unnecessary, at all. Many of the latter point to technology as the ‘new marketing’ which, to their way of thinking, allows for precise targeting and decision analysis, that apparently, no longer requires humans to develop an umbrella strategy to hold all this together.

As is usually the case, the answer isn’t black and white. Yes, the business world is changing at a dizzying pace. And yes, technology has given businesses the incredible ability to more precisely understand, target and analyze marketing and sales information. However, too often today, this ability has become a crutch that gives organizations the rationale to dismiss the power of real marketing (and other) strategy.

And so, marketing strategy gives way to some form of ‘just keep doing what we’re doing.’ And marketing planning, sadly, becomes nothing more than a calendar and list of projects.

What doesn’t work (and never really has) is the rigid marketing plan of old. The plan that neither allowed for change, nor built in ways to leverage change’s inevitable existence.

What does work (and always has) is the marketing plan that outlines and harnesses a well-articulated strategy and position and then outlines efforts in three (3) important areas: 1) Priorities, 2) Tests, and 3) Contingencies. At Cohesion, we also utilize a messaging platform tool that works as the foundation to planning and tactical execution.

If you believe that ‘good-old fashioned’ marketing strategy and planning are dead, you may be right. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that strategy and planning are obsolete. Brand new methods, born from today’s environment and backed by years of understanding are very much alive and well. At least here, they are.

Perhaps you should embrace it before your competitors do?

To learn more about Cohesion and our unique approach to marketing planing and strategy, contact Brian Creath at bcreath@cohesioncompany.com, or at 314-276-5383.

That Fortune-Filled Moment When Strong Strategy Meets Great Creative.

In Advertising, Brand, Brand Relevance, Brand Strategy, Business strategy, Creative, Marketing, marketing strategy, Positioning, Sales, Strategy on February 13, 2013 at 1:46 pm

treasure chest

It’s the one reason the business of marketing and advertising still holds my interest after nearly 30 years and (especially if you’re a purchaser of marketing and advertising services) the reason it should hold yours: When you marry the perfect marketing strategy with the perfect creative expression people will, more often than not, buy more of what you’re selling.

That’s really what clients pay me to do: Find and articulate that one, singular idea that can drive a marketing effort for years. Oh sure, that simplicity can get a bit lost in processes, research, positioning, strategy and a whole lot more, but in the end, this unique strategy+creative marriage is what businesses really want — and desperately need. Because it’s almost impossible to find this inside a company. And sadly, it’s becoming just as difficult on the outside. Today, most marketing firms make their living as ‘specialists,’ working in the vacuums of their vertical world(s).

It takes a generalist to hold the worldview needed to develop ‘grand’ strategy. And a unique combination of skill and experience to express that strategy in a succinct and interesting way: an expression that, if crafted properly, is both poignant and true.

Over the years, I’ve found that most clients believe the development of strong strategy and the expression of great creative are mutually exclusive. That the process to develop strategy must be boring, exhaustive and tedious. That the ability to develop great creative can only come from bizarre, ungrounded minds. My experience has shown this to be the most superficial understanding of both. If you follow a boring, exhaustive and tedious process for strategy, that’s probably the kind of strategy you will develop. Accordingly, an untethered mind will tend to develop, well, bizarre, ungrounded creative.

I’ve had the good fortune to successfully position more than 100 businesses, brands, products and services. I’ve also had the good fortune of being the creative director and writer on dozens of award-winning creative campaigns. It’s where these paths meet that riches are found. Where marketing inertia is created that can last for years.

Where hardened sales, operations and financial disbelievers in marketing turn to you and say, “I had no idea this is what marketing could do.”

Could your business use a better marriage of marketing strategy and creative expression? If so, I know just where you can find it.

 

 

Innovation. Validation. Craft. (What Marketing Organizations Lack Most.)

In Brand, Brand Strategy, Corporate Marketing, Market research, Marketing, marketing strategy, Messaging, Positioning on February 4, 2013 at 3:48 pm

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Most marketing organizations have learned to live much ‘closer to the sale’ than in years past. Lean and efficient, today’s marketing department can ‘make’ more marketing tools than ever before. But in this ‘resizing’ of marketing departments, three very important things have been sacrificed.

In our work, we find the three (3) following elements most lacking from today’s marketing organization:

1. Innovation
Especially in the areas of research, strategy and messaging development. It’s very difficult for organizations to house the quality and expertise to make this work practical and cost-efficient on an ongoing basis.

2. Validation
Often, a third-party is needed to validate marketing assumptions and to package and assemble initial ideas. An expert, outside point-of-view helps provide credibility.

3. Craft
Not necessarily for day-to-day marketing communications work, but more specifically for initial strategic and creative work. The spark that bridges innovation to work that can be developed into ‘first-round’ and ‘template’ creative.

Coincidentally, our brand and marketing strategy firm, Cohesion, is focused on providing the three elements listed above to marketing organizations throughout the country. To learn how Cohesion can benefit your brand, marketing and communications effort, email Brian Creath at bcreath@cohesioncompany.com, or call him at 314-276-5383.

“That’s a Lot to Pay for Your Thinking.” (or) What is Marketing Strategy, Really?

In Brand, Brand Strategy, Business strategy, Marketing, marketing strategy, Positioning, Sales, Small Business, Strategy, Uncategorized on November 30, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Strategic.Thinking

Earlier this year, I met with a prospective client of a large, regional organization, who seemed eager to re-energize his company’s corporate brand. “We really need to develop a new platform for all of our positioning and messaging,” he said. “Internally and externally, we’re confused. We need to define our direction and make a big, bold statement about who we are, and why people should care.”

Great, I thought. Here’s company that not only recognizes its brand/marketing problem, but has a relatively clear understanding of what it needs.

I proceeded to take this person through our approach and some examples of successful work we had done in similar situations. We parted our meeting with the understanding that I would deliver a proposed approach and estimate in the following few days.

Fast forward three days. My prospect, now with our proposed approach in hand, has called to discuss its contents. “You know, I listened to you explain your process, but now that I see it in writing, that’s a lot of work and a lot to pay just for you to come up with some thinking.”

[Silent pause.]

“I was kind of hoping you’d just give me a cost for coming up with a few taglines, or something.”

“Those few taglines that you want require the upfront work I have outlined,” said I. “Additionally, you need quite a bit more than a few taglines. You need a positioning and messaging platform and system that ground all of your communications efforts. On top of that, you don’t have (and desperately need) a clear marketing strategy and direction.”

“We do have a strategy,” said my prospect. “We want to increase sales by 10% next year.” (I’m not kidding.)

To which I kindly responded, “That is an objective — one against which a strategy can be built. How are you going to achieve it,” I asked. “I guess we’ll need to talk about that internally,” he said. “Right now, I just need some taglines.”

* * *

Strategy is the thinking that answers and explains ‘how’ something will be accomplished — how a goal or objective will be achieved.

Insightful marketing strategy — based upon clear business and marketing objectives, marketing research (however limited) and conclusions born from an experienced process — is the single most lacking component of marketing today. (It also happens to be the core business of my firm.) What passes for strategy today, is often shameful and ineffective. More often still, strategy is non-existent.

But there is a silver lining. Because so few companies build and follow strong marketing strategies, the company that does can make a tremendous impact. Immediately, and into the future.

If you’re interested in learning more about how we develop and successfully implement brand and marketing strategy, please contact me (Brian Creath, president of Cohesion), at 314-276-5383, or at bcreath@cohesioncompany.com.

It’s 2013: What’s Your Marketing Strategy?

In Brand, Brand Strategy, Business strategy, Corporate Marketing, Marketing, Strategy on October 30, 2012 at 2:48 pm

As the year begins, Cohesion (our nationally recognized brand and marketing consultancy) has been engaged by several organizations to develop Strategic Brand, Marketing and Communications Planning Guides. These efforts include a short strategic assessment of existing issues, audiences, strategies and tools, and a detailed list of recommended strategic efforts that management and the marketing and/or communications function should consider.

These short plans work for organizations both small and large, and can be developed in about a one-week time-frame. For a fixed price that every company can afford, Cohesion can quickly and efficiently give you a strategic tool that will help start and guide your strategic marketing efforts for 2013. We’ll frame the ‘why’s’ and ‘how’s’ around roughly 10 key strategies, so that you can drive new success in the coming year.

Cohesion is also being engaged by a number of clients to ‘package and explain’ new businesses, new services, new products and more. And of course, if you need more traditional brand, marketing, advertising or communications development, we can help.

Our services put an expert ‘third party’ on the business of your business, without the hassle of a long-term engagement or a cost you can’t afford. Start the year on the right note. Contact Brian Creath at bcreath@cohesioncompany.com, or at 314-276-5383, to learn more, today.

A Novel Idea: Say Something Worth Saying

In Brand, Brand Relevance, Brand Strategy, Communications, Corporate Marketing, Marketing, Sales, Sales Messaging, Strategy on March 14, 2012 at 9:46 pm

In ways even he could not have imagined, Marshall McLuan‘s 1960’s theory has come to pass: The Medium is the Message.

Proof is all around: People mindlessly flip through hundreds of cable channels, watching, well…nothing really…simply because they have the technology. Others, adorned with head and ear attachments, oblivious to fellow shoppers and commuters, converse about trivial matters, simply because, yes…they can. Smart phones at the ready, people of all ages text millions of introspective messages such as: where u at? (Hopefully, swerving to miss the car in front of them.)

Because we can, we do. We have been empowered by the technology afforded us, and dammit, we’re going to use it. Whether we need to or not.

Of course, the appetite for new technology will only increase. But while the explosion of communication mediums has certainly democratized control of ‘the message’ (more people have the ability to say more things to more people than ever before), it’s had a severely negative impact on the quality of the message itself.

Is it really necessary to ‘Tweet‘ about what one has had for breakfast?

Here’s the point: The biggest, real opportunity for marketers today is not about embracing the next technology, but about better using the ones we have. And to do this properly, we have to look beyond the medium, and look to the intrinsic power of the message. The age-old, technology-agnostic craft of saying something worth saying. Something of value. Something of meaning.

God knows, you’ll stand out.

Woody Allen once said, ‘80% of success is just showing up.’ From a communications standpoint, we’ve certainly embraced this, haven’t we? We’re connected. We’ve got gadgets and toys that would frighten Alexander Graham Bell and Mr. Watson. In the time it took to read this post, you’ve already received 10 emails, three texts and 25 Tweets.

Problem is, how many of them are really worth reading? For the astute marketer, the answer is clear: Say something really worth saying. Relevance, my fellow marketer, will get you everywhere.

While I’m working on my next post, I hope you’ll read about how Cohesion helps organizations build stronger brands and marketing efforts, here.

How to Never Get Ahead in Marketing. (Or) Always Let Tactics Drive Your Strategy.

In Brand, Brand Relevance, Brand Strategy, Business strategy, Corporate Marketing, Marketing, Strategy on February 20, 2012 at 4:28 pm

“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.”
-Sun Tzu

[Please Note: This post is not intended as a strategy vs. tactics treatise, but rather, as a discussion starter to point out the real lack of (and real need for) strategic thinking in today’s marketing efforts.]

For some, marketing has always been viewed through a tactical lens. You know the type: the person who mistakes a logo for a brand, or a website for a marketing program. And make no mistake, tactics are critical and necessary to every marketing effort. But because they are tangible, many have confused their necessity with being the ONLY focus of marketing. Sadly, strategy — the thinking that directs a tactic — is increasingly being overlooked, or completely neglected.

Imagine if buildings were built without blueprints — if wars were fought without plans. Lewis Carroll said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”

Social media (and the bold, consumer voice that has arisen from its power) have many marketers now convinced that they cannot guide a brand, or their marketing efforts, but instead, must simply monitor the experiences of customers. And to successfully monitor and react to these experiences, these marketers have focused their resources on the tactics that will enable these efforts. Many times, regardless of what carefully planned core missions, or operations models say they can, or should do.

Should a company listen to its customers and steer accordingly? Of course. Should it simply become what a customer desires, with no strategic input regarding what it can, or should be? Of course, not. This one-sided view is as bad (and wrong) as the one-sided ‘company push’ advertising strategies that customers are rebelling against in the first place.

Strategy is (or should be) the thing that links the internal wants and desires of a company (brand) to the wants and needs of external audiences (partners, suppliers and customers). Developed properly, it’s a flexible bridge that anchors a few core principles and then allows that business and people change — sometimes quickly, sometimes over time. Tactics, are the tools developed from this strategic platform and guided by its direction. Important and critical, but tools, nontheless.

If you don’t have this strategy in place, you run the risk of never differentiating, never knowing what to do next, and yes, never truly getting ahead.

(By the way, if your organization is looking for stronger business, brand and marketing strategy, I know a firm that can help.)

While I’m working on my next post, I hope you’ll read about how Cohesion helps organizations, here.